Following an article published in the Corvallis Gazette-Times, covering the recent changes made by Corvallis School District to mathematics instruction in K-7 schools, Dr. Rebekah Elliott argues in her letter to the editor that peer-reviewed research supports the de-tracking of mathematics.
Dr. Elliott reports that this body of work provides evidence that detracked systems can support all learners and tracked systems negatively impact learners’ mathematical long term success because the system emphasizes acceleration over deep learning of concepts. Acceleration means that students often don’t engage in problem-solving of ill-structured problems that are seen as essential for STEM degrees and cultivating productive mathematical reasoning. Tracked educational systems create courses where students in “low track” courses repeat content year after year without evidence that these opportunities lead to academic success. Many of these students become adults who have developed math anxiety and are community members who exclaim that they are not a “math-person!” What that means for Oregon is economic loss, some estimate in the billions of dollars, lack of mathematical literacy essential for workforce development, and community members who don’t have access to quantitative reasoning to make sense of the complex problems facing us today. Dr. Elliott’s research investigates mathematics leadership development to reduce racial and educational injustice and to advance ambitious and anti-bias mathematics instruction. Read Elliott’s published letter below.
“More than 25 years of peer-reviewed research supports Corvallis School District’s mathematics instruction efforts.
Research documents the pedagogical practices needed to build a detracked educational system and support each and every student to be challenged mathematically. Tracking’s negative impact on learners’ long-term mathematical understanding and enrollment in advanced mathematics courses has long been documented.
Employing the pedagogical skills well supported by research, detracked classrooms do not reduce the opportunity for in-depth learning of mathematics; in fact, they increase it and attend to the disproportionate effects of tracking on students of color, including girls of color. This is why every professional mathematical and statistical organization supports detracking K-12 mathematics.
In a 2015 report, a third to half of Oregon’s students entering college were enrolled in a developmental math course (middle or high school mathematics content). We need a mathematics education system where every student can solve complex real-world problems in a data-rich world. We know the pedagogical strategies needed to support thriving in mathematics and creating opportunities for supported learning in a detracked system.
Corvallis administrators must provide the professional development, time, and ongoing support essential for every teacher to take up the pedagogical practices needed so that every student may engage in challenging and exciting mathematics. I am confident that the Corvallis middle school teachers have the skill and knowledge to do so! Do we as a community have the will to hold up a mirror and address the systemic racism that permeates our educational system?